Final weeks might decide 2012’s economic fate

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Perhaps the best part of Thanksgiving this year, as far as the Colorado Springs economy is concerned, has to be right there on the calendar. With the fourth Thursday of November falling on the 22nd, that means the earliest possible date for Thanksgiving — and the longest possible holiday shopping season.
It’s safe to say that the final verdict for 2012 on the local business community remains undecided entering the year’s last six weeks. We’ve endured ups and downs, particularly the historic Waldo Canyon fire, with mixed signals regarding what direction we’re headed.
Optimists are feeling positive of much better times ahead. Pessimists see Colorado, and the nation, on the verge of hurtling off the fiscal cliff.
Sometimes it’s better to look in the fine print for a better idea of what to expect. By that, we mean items such as this sentence from Nov. 14, as reported in the Denver Business Journal: “Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler says 19,300 new businesses started in the third quarter, the highest number of third-quarter filings since 2007.”
Here’s another piece of news: The Boulder area’s Small Business Development Center reports that it has helped this year in the start of 61 new companies, creating or retaining 574 jobs there.
Nationally, this came out Monday via wire reports: U.S. consumers’ average credit-card debt per borrower increased nearly 5 percent in the third quarter over 2011, an obvious sign of better confidence in the economy. Another positive: The number of new credit cards is rising, but the percentage of delinquent payments remains extremely low.
Here in the Colorado Springs market area, we hear anecdotal accounts of retail businesses counting on strong sales during the holiday period to salvage as much of 2012 as possible. Will it happen? Some national forecasts suggest the holiday season won’t be as robust as in 2011, but even if it comes close, that might suffice.
Several factors add hope to the outlook. We’ve had a nice November weather-wise, right into the Black Friday craziness, which bodes well for good early shopping momentum. Also, for thousands of local families still cutting it close financially, having a lower utilities bill to start December (whether related or not to climate change) should mean having more money for other spending.
We can’t point to a single factoid or statistic and conclude that Colorado Springs’ consumers will deliver six weeks of confident spending to wrap up 2012. Certainly, our thousands of households with direct ties to the military and defense contractors might wait for more developments in the fiscal-cliff negotiations before deciding whether to max out their credit cards. But the signs were good enough to start this week that the volatile stock market enjoyed its best rally in months.
If the good news continues, our local economy will benefit — and perhaps we can look back on 2012 as the year when we bounced back from a horrific disaster much more quickly than anyone ever dreamed. n CSBJ